Earlier this year, aerial photos of a newly discovered tribe living in Brazil's Amazon rainforest electrified the internet. Now that entire tribe, numbering around 200, has gone missing—and a panicking Brazilian government fears that cocaine smugglers are to blame.
The evidence is chilling. A guard post erected to protect the tribe and its land was "ransacked and destroyed" by men carrying sub-machine and rifles, according to a guard who survived the ambush. Those heavily armed drug traffickers now occupy the base and patrol the forest around the missing tribe's former village.
Workers from the Brazilian government's National Indian Foundation report finding a drug-runner's "rucksack with a broken arrow inside" and a 20-kilogram package of cocaine lying nearby. Officials think the smugglers want to use the territory as a route to move product between Brazil and bordering Peru.
Carlos Travassos, the head of the Brazilian government's isolated Indians department, said today, ‘Arrows are like the identity card of uncontacted Indians. We think the Peruvians made the Indians flee. Now we have good proof. We are more worried than ever. This situation could be one of the biggest blows we have ever seen in the protection of uncontacted Indians in recent decades. It's a catastrophe.'
Compounding their fears is the fact that these tribes, who have had literally no communication with the outside world, are extremely susceptible to common viruses and bacteria.